Vivien and Lizzie are available to give talks on various aspects of otter ecology.
We are also able to run informative walks and there is always a chance we may see otters or their field signs.
Please get in touch via the Contact page of the website if you are interested.
We do ask for a donation for hosting events.
A selection of news is available here but a great way to keep up to date with sightings and media coverage regarding UK otters is to join us on Facebook by clicking here
Photo John Melia
Photo John Melia
Photo John Melia
Photo The Otter Network
Video The Otter Network
Successful Operation to Capture and Treat Injured Otter
The Otter Network was recently involved in an operation to rescue an otter in the North East that had become entangled in fishing line that was wrapped tightly around its body.
We were first alerted to the otter’s plight in the middle of January by members of a wildlife Facebook Group in Jarrow, some of whom are also members of The Otter Network Facebook group. The animal had been seen in several locations on the River Don and on the south side of the Tyne.
It was apparent from the photographs taken by members of the group that the fishing line was cutting into the otter’s body and that sooner or later this would lead to infection and possibly internal organ damage. The need to try and help the animal was all too obvious.
We immediately contacted the International Otter Survival Fund (IOSF) - who are based on Skye and have extensive experience of rescuing injured and orphaned otters, rehabilitating them, and releasing them back into the wild. They advised that we needed to try and capture the animal to remove the fishing line or its outlook was not good. Otters with injuries such as this are not often seen due to the secretive nature of the species and live-trapping them is rarely attempted due to their wide-ranging habits, their extreme dislike of confinement and reluctance to take dead fish offered as bait.
IOSF contacted the RSPCA on our behalf and they agreed to attempt to live-trap the animal. However, they did not have a legal otter trap in the north east and neither did anyone else we contacted in the area. At this point the UK Wild Otter Trust (UKWOT) based in Devon got involved and offered to loan the RSPCA a trap which would have to be couriered up from the south west. Additionally, as otters are a protected species the RSPCA needed to obtain a licence to trap the animal from Natural England.
The fate of the otter was now being followed by a large number of people who were all reporting sightings so that we could keep track of its movements. With help from South Tyneside Council Countryside Officer Clare Rawcliffe, we placed a baited trail camera in an area where the otter had been seen in the hope that we could lure it into a secure area where we would be able to set the trap. Then the rain and snow hit, the camera got drowned and no sightings of the otter were reported for a couple of weeks.
The next instalment of the saga was at the beginning of February when we had reports that it had been seen in Wallsend Burn in the grounds of Wallsend Hall – on the north side of the Tyne. There was no way of knowing if the animal would stay in this area or move back across the Tyne to Jarrow and the River Don.
However, efforts now had to switch to North Tyneside, so a call went out for people to report all sightings on Wallsend Burn and we put two trail cameras out in the grounds of Wallsend Hall. Amazingly, we got a hit on one of the cameras the first night it was out. The otter came and took the fish bait. We were closing in.
The next day the RSPCA deployed the trap close by - but left it unarmed with bait inside to make sure that the otter would go into it (otters do not generally like to enter enclosed spaces). The trail camera was repositioned to monitor the open trap and bingo – that night the otter came and entered the trap to take the bait.
The trap was then set and more fish bait left inside for the following night. Incredibly, the otter went in and set off the trap. We had her! The RSPCA then took her straight to the vet where she was anaesthetised, and the fishing line removed.
It had left a deep and serious wound so unfortunately she could not be released straight back into the wild. She was taken to the RSPCA Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre at Stapeley Grange, Nantwich where she remained for two weeks.
Then on the 17th March the RSPCA and Vets4Pets brought her back to the north east and she was released back into her home territory.
We are delighted that we were able to play a part in helping this poor animal and the whole operation was a fantastic example of cooperation between organisations – so huge thanks go out to the RSPCA, UKWOT, IOSF, Vets4Pets and both South and North Tyneside Councils for their part in the rescue.
It is also important to mention all the concerned members of the public from both sides of the Tyne who helped by reporting sightings, monitoring trail cameras and sending in photos.
Funding for 2020 Spring Otter Survey
We are delighted to announce that we have been awarded some funding from the ERIC North East Small Grants fund to help with the costs of the Spring Otter Survey again this year. A huge thank you to ERIC North East.
Funding for 2016
We were extremely grateful for a large donation of £200 from R J McLeod as part of their community development fund during the development of Ray Windfarm, Northumberland
June 2015 - European Otter Workshop Stockholm, Sweden
The European Otter Workshop took place at the beautiful Museum of Natural History in Stockholm at the beginning of June. It was attended by a lot of people involved in otter research and conservation from all over the world and the presentations outlining the different challenges faced by both otters and conservationists were very interesting.
Vivien attended and gave a presentation on the DWT Otter Survey and how citizen science volunteers are making an enormous difference to the amount of knowledge we have about otters in the North East.
The paper on which the presentation was based is now available here on the IUCN Otter Specialist Group website
The Annual Spring Survey has become the heart of the Otter Network activities. Run entirely by the dedicated efforts of Vivien. It is such a significant event that it now has its own dedicated page on the website.
We map and monitor all of your incoming records to produce Maps (see below). We choose a data resolution which gives a rough indication of location to protect the sensitive nature of the records we receive:
All records of dead otters sent to us since 2012
All live records sent to us since 2014
We work alongside the Environment Agency to collect and co-ordinate the transport of otters killed on our roads to the Cardiff University Otter Project. This decades old research programme takes all measurements possible from the retrieved carcasses to aid our understanding of everything from the health of the animals organs, to reproductive status, to heavy metal contaminants the animal may have been exposed to. For more information on the Cardiff University Otter Project please click here
When we can we look to work with MSc students from research institutes to explore in depth the data held relating to local otter records